Erika Gillette is the Cofounder of Science United Project (SUP). She is a science educator with 10 years of STEM teaching experience and an EdD in Science Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Erika started SUP in 2017 and developed easy to use kits, curriculum, and professional development materials for educators who work with displaced students. She is also the CoFounder of HYPOTHEkids, a STEM program in Harlem, NY. She believes that through science, displaced students around the world can develop science skills and a passion for science that will support them in being global science citizens.
Who We Are?
The Science United Festival is an initiative of Science United Project, supported by Blossom Hill Foundation.
The Science United Project was founded by Erika Gillette EdD in 2017 and aims to support teachers to teach science to their refugee and displaced students in an experiential way.
In December 2018, during a mission for delivering educational material and training for science teachers, Erika met Katerina Tsikalaki MScEd, a biology educator who was working as a science and math teacher in a refugee accommodation site. Katerina was experienced in non-typical education and teaching science in an experiential way, and thus they matched. They have been working together to increase Science United Project’s impact ever since.
The Science United Festival is coordinated and facilitated by the Festival Organizing Committee and devoted volunteers.
Please read more about our team below!
Katerina Tsikalaki, Co-Founder and Lead Teacher of Science United Project, is a biologist and a science educator holding a Master’s in Education and has been working in non-formal science education and science communication for 13 years. The past 4 years, Katerina has been focusing on refugee science education, having taught Science, STEM and Mathematics in refugee accommodation sites and community centers, participating in the production of science education material for refugee students, and leading teacher seminars. She believes that science literacy is an important skill that all children should have equal access to.
Desiree Halpern has been working with Science United Project since 2017. Over the years, she has piloted science kits, collected data, assisted and translated for children, and provided technical and communications expertise. She holds a master’s degree in International Educational Development and currently works for an international nonprofit serving refugees. Desiree is excited to be on the communications team for Science United Festival, which she hopes will bring joy and unity through science to children all over the world.
Louise Dasaro joined the founding committee of the Science United Festival inspired by the mission of Science United Project. She is currently pursuing an MS under Dr. Erika Gillette. Louise has been teaching using inquiry based learning strategies for over 15 years while working with vulnerable students and students facing severe emotional challenges. She has led teacher seminars to help teachers incorporate guided inquiry and free inquiry pedagogy in classroom and outdoor classroom settings. Louise also developed an inquiry based curriculum for children ages 4-7. She believes that through science, vulnerable students can be motivated and empowered to continue their education.
Nargis Kohgadai joined as a founding committee member of Science United Festival in the fall of 2021. Her upbringing and career background makes her a good fit for this role. She was born in Afghanistan, lived in India as a refugee for eight years before migrating to the US at the age of 14. Through sheer determination and focus she achieved scholastic success in high school and graduated from University of California, Davis with a degree in Genetics. Henceforth, she began her career as a research scientist at UCSF in labs pioneering in the study of HIV, Female Reproductive Tract and Stem Cells. After becoming a published author she decided to join the Biotechnology industry, where she worked in the field of immuno-oncology. In between her work commitments, she has also traveled to Greece to volunteer at refugee camps as a translator and an English teacher. As a former refugee, It is her hope to mentor and motivate refugee/displaced students to follow their passion for science as she once did.
Ashwin Chandra believes in harmony and equality for all. He joined Science United inspired by the mission of delivering science education and teacher training to displaced students and their teachers. He is a lifelong learner himself, believes access to education is paramount for society to grow. He had previously helped create holistic curriculums and facilitate experiential learning programs which took students through journeys across sacred rivers in India. He holds a degree in biotechnology engineering and is passionate about all things design.